Friday, April 1, 2011

Straight Talk About The Business

Someone made this video using 'extranormal' software and posted it on YouTube. It's getting some play, so I thought that as someone who has been actively pitching shows for 20+ years, I would weigh in with my comments and observations.

Whoever made this video ("Anonymous" naturally) gave their opinion. I'm going to offer mine.
First off - take 3:53 and watch the video.

Done? Okay. Let's get going:

"Stick it in the slot." It's true. Everyone will ask you to submit your project - but the reality is, they get a lot of submissions and their time is limited. They'd prefer not to meet, but if you POLITELY ask for a meeting, 99 times out of 100, you'll get one.

"What is the Canadian Content?" This is completely false. While everyone, broadcaster and production company alike would like to have the Maple Leaf tattoo'd to the butt of every show, I am never asked about the Can-Con quotient and I've pitched a lot of shows. The "Canadian Content" is made up by the people working on the show in key creative positions and through regional production programs.

Let's talk about "regional production". Yes, it can be difficult when you live in Toronto and you have to work in some place like Ottawa. But it can be done and done well. When I was working for a major Toronto studio, the attitude was, "If they were any good, they'd be working in Toronto". Yet this was the same attitude that we received from U.S. based studios. WE couldn't be any good - we were working in... Canada.

Yet, when I went to Ottawa and met the artists there - there were many whom, if they lived in Toronto - would be on my "A" list. So I put them on my "A" list. Bottom line - GREAT TALENT CAN BE FOUND ANYWHERE. Just because you live in NYC or LA or TO - doesn't make you great. Or even good...

"Who's Going To Write The Stories?/Are You Members of The Writers Guild?" - This is completely wrong. You don't need to be a member of The Writers Guild in order to write for television. As a matter of fact, the way to join The Writers Guild - is BY WRITING FOR TELEVISION. Once you've got that first contract, then you're eligible to join. A production company or broadcaster would prefer to work with a Guild Member because Guild membership indicates that you are a professional who understands the workings of television production. It's nice - but not necessary.

"Safe and Non-Controversial Material" - Excuse me? In "Freaky Stories" we touched on EVERY bodily function/fluid except for menstrual blood. The broadcaster and production company allowed me to kill characters on-screen. I presented stories about "Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll" - but in smart, oblique ways. In "Atomic Betty", I re-staged "The Manchurian Candidate" for 8 year olds, INCLUDING themes involving drug use, brain washing and assassination. (I left out the incest.) Again, this was for 8 year olds - and it passed the network's Broadcast Standards and Practices without anyone blinking an eye. If you are smart, you can do anything on TV. Anything.

"The Writers Don't Even Work In the Same Building As You" -- True. Except for instances where the show uses a "Writers Room" - which is rarely done in Canada. I've never been part of a Writers Room - Writers and Story Editors work from home. On their own time. On their own schedule. So unless you want to see me writing stories in my pajamas and fuzzy pink bunny-slippers - you're going to stay at home too.

"If you're lucky, the whole thing will be animated in the Philippines for pennies a day" - Well folks - that is the reality of the business. It's TV - not feature films. You have to work overseas, or you don't work at all. You hire the best people that you can afford. You hire the best studio, the best overseas studio and the best OVERSEAS SUPERVISOR that you can get.

And you know what? Check out my notes (above) on Canadian Content. Some of those "pennies-a-day" overseas animators are better than you. Hell, I'd bet that most of them are better than you.

"Cheap Animation School Labour" - Well, someone's bitter. It looks to me that whichever "Old Timer" who made this video, never went to animation school - or scraped along to pay his dues.

"It's Cheaper To Develop New Content Than to Continue With Existing Shows" - Incorrect. Sorry, this is just plain wrong. The MINIMUM number of episodes required for syndicated distribution is 39. A show does not and can not make money in its first season. Production companies and broadcasters want and need to build an audience for their brands. Whoever made this video is misinformed.

OVERALL - I'd say this video was made by a bitter wanna-be show creator. He/She/It blames everyone without taking a good look at the CREATIVE of the show to be pitched. Let's be realistic about this. Not every idea is a good idea. Not every pitch is a good pitch. Most of them are pretty awful - it's that old "98% Rule". It isn't always the fault of the system. Trust me.


  1. They did a xtranormal video about trying to be a writer which is along the same lines but a little more bitter.

  2. You're right, I didn't go to animation school - I got accepted at Capilano but took the offer from my co-op studio and started working instead. That was eleven years ago. I dont know if I am a wannabe show creator - I'm two for five when it comes to shows pitched and sold - so maybe I am... Anyways, you took the satire a little bit seriously, enough to go off on your own rant, maybe you should make an extranoraml cartoon - they're free! By the way I checked out FS to jar my memroy - good job on landing the show - done anything recently?

  3. My blog. My rant.
    I was just correcting your erroneous opinions about the biz. I stand by what I wrote.

  4. Then I salute you! And by the way, claims are erroneus, opinions are subjective - time to dust off the old thesaurus, Salinger.

  5. Well, since you have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the discussions on this or any other blog, I invite you to haunt someone else's house.

    Ta-Ta! Consider yourself flushed.

  6. And Brent, What you stated in your little video-thing weren't facts. They were opinions masquerading as facts - and they were wrong. So kiddo, your opinions were and are erroneous.

    Don't bother writing back. You're blocked.
    My blog. My rules.